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ESPN Executive Chairman George Bodenheimer ’80 accepts the Distinguished American Award from the National Football Foundation in New York.

More than 1,600 people showed up Tuesday¬†night (Dec. 4, 2012)¬†at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City for the 55th Annual National Football Foundation Awards Dinner, where the NFF welcomed the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame class. But members of the class weren’t the only ones receiving high praise at the big event.

It was there that Denison alumnus George Bodenheimer ’80, executive chairman of ESPN, received the foundation’s Distinguished American Award, an honor that recognizes leaders who have maintained a lifelong interest in football and have made a significant contribution to the betterment of amateur football in the United States.

Bodenheimer joins an impressive group of individuals, including Bob Hope, Vince Lombardi, and Tom Brokow, all who have received the Distinguished American Award, one of the NFF’s highest honors.

Bodenheimer, who was awarded Denison’s Varsity D Association Athletic Citation for achievement in sports in 2006, started at ESPN in an administrative role in 1981, eventually working his way through the ranks of sales and marketing. He became president of the global cable network in 1998, a position he held until January of 2012, when he assumed his new role as executive chairman. Throughout his more than 30-year career in the sports industry, he’s held many titles, including president of ABC Sports and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks.

A longtime authority, innovator, and opinion leader in the areas of sports entertainment and amateur athletics, Bodenhiemer has been named by The Sporting News as its “Most Powerful Person in Sports,” and Sports Business Journal named him “Sports Executive of the Year.”

“I would like to again thank all the men and women of ESPN. It is truly their work over the last three decades that has made tonight’s award possible,” said Bodenheimer of the NFF award. “As the world, and certainly our business, will inevitably continue to evolve, one thing will remain forever the same. ESPN is all in for college football, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to grow this great game.”

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